Section

Student experience

Abstract

At a time of transition into adulthood, tertiary study places additional stresses on the mental wellbeing of students. The continual assessment, long teaching hours, and expectation of professionalism that is expected from students within clinical programmes places even more burden on these students. Then in 2020, with the COVID-19 lockdown, there were significant changes to how these programs were delivered. We surveyed the mental wellbeing of our undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Optometry and Bachelor of Pharmacy programmes at the University of Auckland in 2019 and 2020. Using validated screening questionnaires, we found a high level of anxiety and depression in both years, however, in 2020 following the lockdown, anxiety levels in our students decreased. We found that the leading stressor was academic stress, and levels of anxiety were inversely correlated with perceived academic success. Therefore, we believe the lockdown, which provided both a break from clinical stresses and a change in teaching modality to online delivery, provided a period of relief, despite the potential stressful environment regarding COVID-19. To help alleviate the high level of distress in our students, lessons could be learned to decrease the stress levels in our students by continuing with alternative teaching and assessment styles.

Practitioner Notes

  1. A substantial proportion of tertiary clinical students face experience anxiety and depression
  2. Most of the stress derives from academic pressures
  3. During the COVID-19 lockdown, with enforced changes to teaching and evaluation, students experienced a significant reduction in anxiety
  4. Modifications to standard clinical teaching methods to include more online and asynchronous assessment methods may improve the mental wellbeing of students

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